Dutch bishops: shame and sorrow at abuse

16th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

An independent report on sexual abuse at Dutch Catholic institutions has drawn widespread media coverage, both at home and abroad. The Dutch justice minister has expressed shock and the Dutch Catholic authorities have offered apologies.

Between 10,000 and 20,000 children suffered abuse at Catholic schools, seminaries and orphanages, the Deetman inquiry found. The report identifies 800 offenders.

The bishops and the Congregation of Dutch Religious have voiced shock and have offered their apologies. A bishops’ statement said: “We express our apologies for the abuse. It fills us with shame and sorrow. Not only the offenders deserve blame but so do the clerical authorities who failed to act accurately and failed to put the interest of and care for the victims first. ”

The Congregation of Dutch Religious is the organisation of religious orders, congregations, abbeys and monasteries. In a statement, the bishops say they intend to make a personal effort to improve support for the victims and want to involve the victims themselves in that process. They also say they wish to take measures to make sexual abuse a topic that can be discussed openly.

In a letter, Cardinal Simonis offers a personal apology. In it, the says he regrets that Church officials failed to act in an appropriate manner in a number of cases that occurred during his tenure. “Of course I take it personally”, he writes in the letter.

Last year the cardinal caused controversy by stating: “”, German for “We didn’t know”, a phrase some Germans used after World War II in connection with German war atrocities, including the Jewish Holocaust. A few days later, the cardinal withdrew the statement.

Security and Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten has expressed shock at the extent of the abuse within the Catholic Church. “The picture Mr Deetman paints is very intense and shocking”, the minister said after the weekly cabinet meeting.

In its conclusions, the Deetman report urges the government to centralise efforts aimed at combating child sex abuse. Mr Optelten pointed out that a report on human trafficking had made a similar recommendation. “We said then: we’ll do it, we’ll intensify that, we’ll get tougher and broader. This is an extra signal which I take extremely seriously,” the minister said.

Many of the cases in which clerics are suspected of abusing children have become prescribed. For “situations which are still continuing”, Mr Optselten urged victims to report them to the Public Prosecutor’s Office so it can determine whether it can take legal action.

Many international news websites, including the BBC, the CNN and al-Jazeera, cover the story on their homepage. Several newspapers, such as the in Belgium and The Irish Times, carry extensive reports on the scandal.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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